Tuesday, January 20, 2015

News From the Homefront

Joseph Herrin (01-20-2015)

Almost ten years ago a brother in Christ who had been encouraged and challenged by hearing of some of my experiences of walking with the Lord by faith, suggested that I write more about this subject. Consequently, I was led to write the autobiographical book Evidence of Things Unseen.


Since then I have found that people continue to demonstrate an interest in my life experiences, oftentimes writing to request that I provide an update on what is occurring which may be of interest. Many people have been interested to read of the numerous ways Yahweh has directed me to prepare for the coming days of trouble, the alterations to my way of life, and the lessons I am learning through various experiences. This post will share some recent news. There is an expression here in Georgia that states “life is where the rubber meets the toads.” (There are lots of frogs on the highways here. Some Georgia residents may object that they have never heard this saying. They have just not been around me long enough to have done so.)

There has been a great deal occurring in my life in recent months. I have written previously of a young man coming to live with me whom I became familiar with while he was in prison. Nicholas continues to live with me, though his days are so filled with activity which takes him away from home that I mainly see him in the mornings when I get up to prepare his breakfast.

Nicholas and Rock-C

Nicholas was blessed to quickly obtain a maintenance job at a local dairy, one of the largest in Georgia. He works ten hour days, five days a week, typically leaving home around 6:30 A.M.. Many nights I do not see him, as he will go directly to some church youth activity after work, or go visit with friends. It is a great blessing for Nicholas to have been brought to a place where there are a significant number of other young men and women who have a sincere love for the Lord. This is an experience he has never known before in his life. Nicholas also challenges them spiritually, as he has a strong sensitivity to the voice of God, and desires to order his life according to the Spirit’s guidance. Many of the young people here, although devoted to Christ, have not experienced surrendering their lives to the Spirit’s leading to the same degree.

Nicholas has found great favor in the eyes of his parole officer who oversees this district. Nicholas is required to observe curfew and is set-up with a company that will call him at random times of the night to make sure he is home. He is required to be in every night at 9:30 P.M.. This presented a problem initially. Since this is a farming community, many of the young people’s activities, including their Bible studies, would not start until late in the evenings. Nicholas would have to leave these meetings early in order to get home before his curfew.

The man who oversees the young adults at the church Nicholas (and my daughter Kristin) attend spoke to Nicholas’ parole officer about this matter. He was going to ask for an extension of Nicholas’ curfew until 10:30 P.M.. He was surprised when the parole officer emphatically told him that Nicholas needed to be at these Bible studies and to have the influence of godly people. The parole officer of his own initiative told this youth leader that as long as Nicholas was with the young adults from this church participating in some group event, he could stay out as long as the meetings lasted. All he required was for the youth leader to send him a text letting him know that Nicholas was with them. This was more than Nicholas had dared to hope for, and it has been a great blessing for him to be able to relax and participate in their meetings without having to watch the time.

Almost immediately upon arriving here, Nicholas had mentioned wanting a dog. A few weeks after his stay began he was driving down a remote rural road not far from my location when he saw this little black dog in the road. It had no collar, and appeared to have been abandoned. Nicholas stopped his car and opened the door and the dog hopped right in. It appeared to be a very young female, little more than a puppy. I told Nicholas he could bring her home. He named her Rock-C (pronounced Roxie). Nicholas chose the name because Christ is the Rock.

Rock-C is one of the most personable, loving dogs I have ever seen. She is a true lap dog. She would lay beside me for hours as I typed away on the computer.

Rock-C Lying Beside Me in the Bus

Unfortunately, Rock-C was not housebroken, and was a slow learner. Consequently, I had to watch her continually, and could not put her down on the floor, or leave her alone on the beds or furniture. I made her a runner outside so I could leave her on the leash, but many of the days were too cold, or wet, for her to be out. Champ, my large Pit Bull/Hound mix liked Rock-C just fine. He has never shown any animosity toward other dogs. It is only people that he takes some warming up to.

I purchased a small, soft dog crate to keep Rock-C in when I had to leave the bus, but most of the time she sat right next to me. I took her on walks with Champ. The two dogs looked like the odd couple as they walked together. It took only a little time for Rock-C to not be afraid of Champ. She was intimidated at first, but was soon trying to boss him around.

Being a puppy, Rock-C’s bladder control was not very good. She would need to be walked once or twice a night. Nicholas is a very hard sleeper, so I would take her out and walk her about every four hours. After several weeks Nicholas was able to evaluate the situation and see that he really did not have time for a dog. Most days he was unable to spend more then 5 minutes with her. So we started looking for another home for this young dog he had rescued. (I had previously checked with the neighbors on the street where she was found, and no one claimed ownership or had any idea where she had come from.)

I found that having a lap dog that needed lots of attention was not conducive with my activities. Although I very much enjoyed her affection, I have found that caring for a small indoor dog placed a mental burden on me that would not let me relax, or focus fully on other matters. Writing, for me, is an activity that requires uninterrupted blocks of time where I have no distractions. Champ is a dog well suited to my life, for he prefers being outdoors, and requires little attention. He is always ready for me to take him on a walk, or a bike run, but does not demand constant watching.

My daughter Kristin found a young woman who participates in her church’s community outreach program who had one small dog, a Shih Tzu. This young woman wanted another dog. The family has much more time to spend with them, and they shower their dogs with affection. So off Rock-C went to her new home. She has already become friends with the other dog, and is not nearly so mismatched in size.

Rock-C in Her Sweater, and Her New Pal

At the least, Nicholas and I were blessed to be able to rescue another one of Yahweh’s creatures, and to find it a good home. She went fully equipped with food dishes, dog food, pet crate, sweater, leash, and harness. We even had an elderly sister from Wyoming who sent her a crocheted blanket to lay on.

Proverbs 12:10
A righteous man regards the life of his animal,
But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.

Some have asked me whether I have completed my solar auxiliary power system for my bus. Those who follow my blog regularly may remember that a final task I had was to build a tracking mount to go atop my bus, and to integrate it with an electronic control package that would have the solar panels automatically track the sun throughout the day. A dual axis solar tracking system can increase power output by about 40% over stationary solar panels.

A brother in Christ who resides in Idaho very graciously volunteered to both design and fabricate the solar tracking mount for me. I am thoroughly impressed with the design. I have four solar panels that produce an estimated 560 watts of electricity per hour. They are going to be mounted on the roof of my bus at the rear where there is a platform built.

The raised area at the rear of the bus covered by the tarp is where my panels will be mounted. I was using this area for storage, but since I purchased a trailer to pull behind the bus, the storage area is no longer needed. I measured the panels, and they will fit perfectly within the rails that line this roof deck, leaving a couple inches clearance on all sides. It seemed like the area was custom made for this purpose.

Jeff (the brother assisting me) came up with a nifty design that utilizes a pneumatic bottle jack to raise and lower the panel array. When I am traveling I can lower the panels and cover them with the tarp for protection. When I am parked, I can remove the tarp, raise the panels with the jack so they clear the rails, and they will swivel on a trailer wheel/axle that is integrated into the design. Jeff has done all the work himself, having to find time when he could. His work schedule has been exceptionally busy since he began, so progress has been slow. He has the job almost complete, however. Following are some pictures of his progress.

Beginning Work Cutting the Steel

Building a Steel Base for the Jack

Lining the Inner Box with UHMW (Ultra High Molecular Weight Plastic)

The UHMW is extremely slick. It is almost like a self-lubricating surface. It will allow the inner base and outer base to slide over one another without binding.

Inner Base Lined with UHMW

Fabricating the Outer Base

Solar Mount with Wheel and Axle Mounted

Tracking Mount with Arms Installed to Attach Linear Actuators

As you can see, the physical apparatus that will support the four solar panels and allow them to track with the sun is nearing completion. Seeing that the end is very near in fabricating this part of the project, I spent considerable time researching the available options for an electronic package to control the motion of the panels along two axes. The panels will rotate horizontally to track from East to West, and return to the East position after sunset to catch the morning sun. There will also be motion on the North/South axis as the panels are inclined to keep them always facing directly at the sun.

The solar mount on the right in the picture above shows the two axes of motion that my panels will follow. There are very few off-the-shelf electronics kits that a person can purchase to control a dual axis solar tracker. I found four manufacturers that closely approximated turnkey solutions. (Hook it up and turn it on.) Of the four, only one met all of my criteria, which included having a high-wind parking feature, and being easily programmable. The high-wind parking feature is essential as the solar panels act as a big sail on top of the bus. The wind can exert many tons of force on the surface of the panels, and would likely destroy the panels and the solar mount if they were left in an upright position in a high wind. A high-wind parking feature will monitor the wind speed. When a threshold wind speed is reached, the panels will automatically lower themselves to a flat position where they present a minimum profile to the wind.

The package I settled on is called the Solar Stalker STA1000. It is designed and manufactured in North Carolina, not far from my home state of Georgia. I was blessed to be able to order one yesterday. I was just notified that it has shipped.

Solar Stalker STA1000 by Laser Precision Crafts

The STA1000 comes with a light sensor to track the position of the sun, a programmable electronics control unit, wires to make the connections, and an anemometer (a wind speed sensor).

The Dual Axis Light Sensor uses diodes to accurately report the direction of the sun. Once Jeff completes the solar mount, I can purchase the two linear actuators which will produce the motion along both axes. They must be sized for the specific design of the mount, so I need to wait until Jeff has completed the fabrication to order them. Then it is simply a matter of installing everything on the roof of my bus. I already have all of my wiring ready, having run it to the roof deck a couple of months ago.

This is the wiring hub located on the deck atop my bus’ roof. The four pairs of wires going out the sides will be connected to the four solar panels. The other end of these wires run to the combiner box inside my bus, and from there they go to the solar charge controller which in turn keeps my battery bank charged and prevents overcharging. The object to the right inside the box with the red and black wire running to it, is a 12 volt outlet. The STA1000 will draw its power from there, and will in turn power the linear actuators that move the solar array to keep it aligned with the sun.

On to other news, I continue to utilize my recumbent trike and trailer to make my trips to town for shopping and post office runs. This time of year I have to plan my trips around the weather, and bundle up. It is a 30 mile round trip to town. Yesterday I made the trip, not realizing it was a federal holiday and the post office was closed. It wasn’t a wasted trip, however, as I could still collect my mail. I just could not ship off the packets of writings and material that I had with me. My daughter graciously agreed to take care of shipping them today.

Here I was attired yesterday for my ride. I stopped by my daughter’s place of employment. Kristin told me I looked like I belonged on the show Duck Dynasty. I don’t know why she thought so.

The sports goggles are a matter of necessity when riding my recumbent trike. The cold wind and glare of the sun would make it very difficult to see if I did not have them. They are prescription goggles, and I have been very happy with them. The skull cap did a great job of keeping the top of my head warm yesterday. It was also serving as camouflage to hide my recent battle scars.

I was bringing Champ inside the bus two days ago after having taken him on a five mile bike run. He gets nervous when he hears people shooting guns, which is a pretty common occurrence out in this rural area. I took pity on his whining, and was bringing him inside when he got hung up on the bus’ screen door. Champ snatched the door one direction, and then it sprang back the other way. I got hit on the top of the head both ways. It didn’t hurt, and barely bled. It looks worse than it is. Such are the perils of those who are bald headed.

When Jonathan came to visit me a couple of weeks ago, we spent some time together talking about diet and nutrition. He had lost 65 lbs. in the past year, which I considered an impressive feat. Jonathan brought hummus with him. I have tried hummus before, but really liked the brand he had purchased. However, I noted that it was made with soybean oil, rather than the much preferred olive oil. I determined then that I would begin making my own hummus. I already have about 100 lbs. of dried chick peas (garbanzo beans) on hand, which is the primary ingredient of hummus. I purchased some tahini (ground sesame seeds), the second main ingredient, and acquired an inexpensive immersion blender to make my own hummus.

Mixing up the Hummus

If you ever travel to the region of Israel, you will find that hummus is a very common food item. It is also extraordinarily healthy when prepared with good ingredients (use extra virgin olive oil instead of soybean oil or other vegetable oils). It can be eaten with pita bread with other sandwich fillings, used similarly to mayonnaise. It is great for dipping breads, chips, vegetables, or other foods.

One of My First Batches of Hummus

I had some ranch chip dip in my fridge when Jonathan came for a visit. It was made with low fat sour cream. Homemade hummus is a much healthier dip, however. I am continuing to make alterations to my diet, opting for basic, high quality natural foods that are minimally processed, over the fast food, poor nutritional value items available in stores. With each change I am giving my body better fuel to work with, and better nutrients to promote good health.

In closing, I will mention my latest educational foray. I have long had an interest in astronomy. In the book Foundations which I posted last year I included four chapters on the subject of Biblical astronomy/astrology.

Prophecy in the Heavens

The Scroll of the Heavens

The Ancient Zodiac and its Motions

The Zodiac Explained

I regret that I never had the opportunity to take an astronomy course in high school, or in college. However, it is better to be late than to never learn at all. Having spent literally years considering various telescopes and binoculars, I concluded that viewing the heavens with both eyes is far preferable to viewing them with one eye. I have always disliked having to squint, or to try to keep one eye closed while viewing with the other. It is far more natural to look at objects with both eyes opened.

I began my venture into astronomical viewing by purchasing an inexpensive, but decent quality set of 15x70 power binoculars sold by Celestron, a manufacturer of astronomical equipment. I purchased a used pair through Amazon for only $36.00. I was amazed at both the terrestrial and celestial views I could obtain through these binoculars. For reference, the first number in the description of a pair of binoculars refers to the magnification. The second number refers to the opening at the wide end of the glasses, called the aperture. This controls how much light is gathered by the binoculars. A higher aperture number indicates that more light enters the binoculars, and for night viewing a large aperture is vital. These inexpensive, but impressive Celestron Skymaster 15x70 binoculars provided a spectacular viewing image of the moon at night. It was one of those experiences that make you ooh and ahhh!

These are fairly large binoculars. They are 11" long, and weigh about 3-1/2 lbs. This makes it difficult to steady them for long in your hands, and makes you wish for a tripod to mount them on. Being quite impressed with the use of binoculars for night viewing, I opted to advance to a pair that featured higher magnification and an even larger aperture. I found a used pair of Orion 25x100 Giant View binoculars on Ebay, and acquired them along with an Orion binocular mount and tripod. The viewing through these is nothing short of stunning. I am anticipating the next comet to come along so I can study it at length.

These Orion 25x100 binoculars weigh more than ten pounds and are more than 17 inches long. You can gauge their comparative size in the photo below. The largest binoculars are like the Orion binoculars I acquired, and the unit one size down are similar to the Celestron binoculars.

I am not going to get any Hubble-like views of deep space objects, but there is something that touches my spirit deeply about standing out in an open field looking up toward the heavens with my own two eyes, and observing the immensity and grandeur of what Yahweh has created. It is a humbling, and yet also an uplifting, experience.

Psalms 8:3-4
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man, that You do take thought of him? And the son of man, that You do care for him?

We live in an hour when many portentous events are soon to occur. They will be accompanied with signs in heavens (Luke 21:25). It seems significant that much of my recent experiences, both with my solar panel tracker, and in astronomy, have focused upon looking to the heavens.

Luke 21:28
"But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

Keep your eyes on the heavens.

May you be blessed with peace and understanding in these days.

Heart4God Website: http://www.heart4god.ws    

Parables Blog: www.parablesblog.blogspot.com    

Mailing Address:
Joseph Herrin
P.O. Box 804
Montezuma, GA 31063

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